a man and a woman, two members of Maine's legislature, sit behind a desk examining papers
Lynne Williams (right) reviews the agenda for a May 24 committee work session with Senate Chair Ben Chipman (D-Portland). (Portland Phoenix/Douglas Rooks)
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There are islands of calm in the boisterous atmosphere of session days in May and June. One of them is the Transportation Committee, which meets in a large hearing room one floor directly below the Appropriations chamber.

House Chair Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor) is in her second term on the committee, and said most proceedings have gone smoothly, “except for the bicycle and passenger rail bills” where groups are competing for the meager funding allotted by Maine DOT, which overwhelmingly steers its priorities toward highways and bridges.

Another reason is that the committee has strong relationships between Democratic and Republican members, she said. “We hang out together, we have drinks together.”

Williams added that her lunches with Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, a longtime friend, have attracted unfavorable comment from younger Democratic members, who tend to view Republicans as adversaries, if not enemies.

“We can’t do it that way,” she said. “We have to be able to talk with each other to reach agreement, and most of the time we do.”

She recognizes it isn’t that easy for other committees.

The Judiciary Committee held a 19-hour hearing May 1, lasting through the night and into the following morning, on Gov. Janet Mills’s abortion rights proposal, LD 1619. While its duration surprised some, one aide observed, “You know it’s a sign when people arrive for work with overnight bags.”

That bill has yet to be reported out.

The Health and Human Services Committee is still struggling with dozens of unvoted bills. On a single afternoon work session, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee took up 18 bills.

Some committees are done, but most have plenty of work still to do.

Williams doesn’t have an opinion about when the session might end, or what exactly it might take to get there.

“We have to trust that our leaders will get us there,” she said. “So far, we’re all still in the room.”

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